Tea farmers and factories that exhibited best agronomical practices and product handling last year have been awarded by National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB). The awardees include Sorwathe, Shagasha, Nyabihu and Mata tea factories. The factories received their awards during the official launch of the country's new tea brand image that was unveiled by NAEB recently.
Speaking during the ceremony, Amb George William Kayonga, the NAEB chief executive officer, said the awards recognise farmers and factories that strived to ensure tea standards and played an instrumental role in enhancing quality along the value chain.
In 2015, the agro-exports body rolled out new benchmarks for the sector to help boost the country's quality of tea along the value chain and competitiveness.
"We target to improve factory processing efficiency and increase the value and volume of tea exports through value addition and product diversification," Kayonga said.
According Rohith Peiris, the Sorwathe director general, the awards are a motivation to farmers to work hard and ensure quality and volumes.
Pelagia Uwamariya, a tea farmer in Nyamasheke, said there is need to train and sensitise farmers to help boost tea quality and make the sector more competitive.
NAEB targets to increase tea export receipts to $94.9 million by 2018, up from $65.7 million in 2013. In 2014, government through NAEB signed agreements with co-operatives and tea processing factories to scale up production and exports. Under the arrangement, the agro-exports body pledged to provide capacity building, including training to ensure proper agronomical practices among farmers.
Rwanda Tea brand launched officially
During the function, NAEB officially launched the new national tea brand, Rwanda Tea, that seeks to increase visibility of Rwanda's teas and help make the sector more competitive.
Tea is one of the top foreign revenue earners for Rwanda. The country earned $74.5 million for the financial year July 2016 to June 2017 from 25.1 million kilogrammes exported.
The Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Geraldine Mukeshimana, said new brand identity will help position the country's teas as premium products by introducing and re-enforcing the country's tea identity.
The brand image is under the tagline, 'A Natural Reawakening'.
Mukeshimana said: "It is imperative to protect the reputation of Rwanda tea by setting it apart from other global teas. By working together, we will ensure that Rwanda Tea brand will continue to be a high-quality product that is sought after and trusted; backed by robust regulation and policy standards."
The minister added that the objective is to bring the new brand to life through concerted efforts.
Kayonga said the tea sector values the importance of branding Rwandan tea as a fundamental marketing strategy on the local, regional and global market. "The brand identity was created to draw the interest and attention of tea buyers by differentiating it from other teas across the world," the NAEB boss said.
He added that the country is known for its high quality teas worldwide.
Finance Minister Amb Claver Gatete hailed the sector for contributing toward reducing the country's trade deficit. "We shall continue supporting the sector and farmers to help them increase production and their contribution to Rwanda's development efforts," he said.
Rwanda exports its teas to over 48 countries including Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Mid-East.
The new brand identity will help empower and inspire tea value chain stakeholders to conserve and value the country's natural heritage, Jean Mutabazi, Kitabi Tea Factory director, said.